Like most things in life, debt does not last forever. But after how long does debt prescribe? If you are in debt and your credit provider fails to communicate, claim payments or take legal actions against you within a certain time period, the debt becomes prescribed. This means that your debt will be cancelled and the credit provider will not be able to claim any payments on it, ever again.

There are many different types of debt, each with its own prescription period. A claim for loss due to theft becomes prescribed after three months. A claim for compensation for injuries will prescribe after a year. Standard and contractual debt – such as credit card accounts, retail accounts, Telkom accounts, gym memberships, personal loans and cell phone accounts – prescribe after three months. All cheque-related debt will prescribe after six years. While mortgage bonds, municipal accounts, TV licenses and tax-related debt will only prescribe after 30 years.

Debt will only be prescribed under the following conditions:

  • You have not been contacted by your credit provider with regards to your outstanding debt.
  • You have not acknowledged the debt – whether verbally or in writing – in the past three years.
  • You have not made any payment arrangements for the outstanding debt amount.
  • You have not been summoned to make any payments on the debt within the last three consecutive years.

Your debt will not be prescribed if:

  • You have acknowledged the debt.
  • You have made payments on the debt within the last three years.
  • Your credit provider takes legal action against you.
  • You do not live in South Africa.
  • You are legally married to the credit provider.
  • You are business partners with the credit provider.